There are books worth reading, and then there are books worth sharing after you’ve read them. I heartily recommend the new book by Father Bill Miscamble, a Holy Cross Father, at the University of Notre Dame. It’s called American Priest, and it profiles the life and legacy of one of the most influential priests of the 20th century: Father Theodore Hesburgh, or as millions of Americans knew him, “Father Ted.”
The book is worth reading for many reasons, the first of which is its detailed and intimate look at Father Ted’s story. He was born in 1917 in Syracuse, New York to a modest Catholic family. From his earliest days, he wanted to be a priest. To the end of his life, he celebrated Mass and prayed his breviary daily.
Father Ted had a heart for justice. He supported the two greatest movements of the day: The civil rights movement and, somewhat less forcefully, the pro-life movement. But most of all, Father Ted had a heart for education, which he demonstrated over 35 years as president of the University of Notre Dame. He wanted to shape the minds of the rising generation, knowing as Pope Pius XI said, that “the soul of education is the education of the soul.”
The educational aspect is what I enjoyed the most. As a founder of two Catholic educational institutions and an avid supporter of lay apostolates, I was inspired by the prophetic vision of Fr. Ted toward Catholic higher education. As an aside, I also learned that Fr. Hesburgh earned his Master and Doctoral degrees at The Catholic University of America, where The Busch School of Business is housed.
While Notre Dame has existed for more than 150 years, Father Ted largely built the school into what it is today. I don’t have to explain what I mean because pretty much everyone knows about Notre Dame.